This morning, a funeral was held for former mayor Ed Koch, who passed away last Friday. Mayor Bloomberg, Former President Bill Clinton, Christine Quinn, and Rudolf Giuliani were among the many people who spoke, and thousands of others gathered at the Temple Emanu-El on the East Side of Manhattan to pay their respects.
He was the 105th Mayor on New York City, serving from Jan. 1, 1978, to Dec. 31, 1989, when New York was filled with graffiti, crime, and was considered much more dangerous than it is today. He was a renaissance man, remembered not only for cleaning up the streets and decreasing crime in our city, but also as a soldier, an uncle and a movie reviewer. Yes, this past year, Koch became a movie reviewer for bliptv.com called Mayor at the Movies.
In an interview with Vice Magazine last year, Koch said, “I don’t want you to think I know anything about the movies as an expert—I don’t. My movie reviews are very direct. I don’t pretend to know anything about directing. What the hell do I know about directors? I only know whether a movie pleases me or doesn’t”.
In the interview, Koch also admits that graffiti on subway cars was one of the things that irked him the most while serving as the Mayor of New York. His solution, and he was dead serious, was to release wild wolves in the Subway Yards to scare away the kids who would paint the cars at night. Apparently there has never been a case of a wild wolf attacking anyone, just domesticated ones. MTA did not agree with this plan of (literal) attack. I wonder why?
They played Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” when he coffin was taken out of the synagogue, and he will be buried at Trinity Church Cemetery in northern Manhattan with a tombstone that reads, “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.” A powerful phrase spoken by the journalist Daniel Pearl just before he was killed by Islamic extremists in 2002.
Koch also wrote his own epitaph: “He was fiercely proud of his Jewish faith…He fiercely defended the City of New York, and he fiercely loved its people. Above all, he loved his country, the United States of America, in whose armed forces he served in World War II.”
Of course, any look back at Koch’s life and leadership would not be complete without bringing the NYC AIDS Crisis into the conversation. Koch’s inaction in the face of the devastating illness that spread like wildfire through the city in the ’80s is considered by most to be his greatest failure. Koch saved the city from bankruptcy and cleaned up the streets, but this blight on his time as mayor will endure along with his successes.
Regardless, RIP to the man Vice called, “ the last politician in American history who actually said what he meant and meant what he said”.
Photo via vice.com